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Obama as geo-politician

In so many acute global crises lie opportunities for new partnerships, led by the US.

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Barack Obama will take office Jan. 20 at a time of acute global crises. The world economy is contracting at its fastest rate since World War II. Nations face a deadline in one year to agree on new ways to stem climate change. And with the Mumbai attacks, the threat of terrorism poses new and dangerous challenges to international security.

Countries are becoming more linked than ever by border-jumping troubles popping up like Whack-a-Moles – from the spread of environmental hazards to Internet crimes.

For a US president who campaigned with a call to rally "world citizens," this could be a pivotal moment to welcome more partnerships to meet these challenges – if Mr. Obama's domestic agenda doesn't consume his attention.

Take modern piracy, which has increased off the Horn of Africa with new weapons and big ships. The danger to commerce remains so high that China plans to send two warships to the Gulf of Aden – its first major long-range naval combat mission since the 15th century. It joins a half-dozen countries, led by the US, whose navies will cooperate to chase down Somali pirates.

The salient point is this: As problems become more global, there arise more opportunities for nations to work together, often beyond the difficult channels of the United Nations and other international institutions.

But it is really the steep recession and the stalled flow of financial credit that mark a historic turning point toward nations linking hands for collective action.

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